Personally, I want to record all the stories about my ancestors, but not necessarily accept them as proof of any event except that a given person actually lived – or did he? Auntie left one little detail out of the story she wrote about her father – he had been born out of wedlock. (True example!) Yes, the man lived, but under two names. He was William Lewis in his homeland, and William L. Parry in America. His pre-immigration records could not be found unless one knew that little (unspeakable for Auntie!!) fact. That little omission cast a shadow of doubt on everything else she wrote about him. What else did she omit? Or what parts of the story did she create as a cover-up for reality?
There are all kinds of sources available to family historians. The challenge is to recognize that not all sources have the same reliability value. If we truly want to confirm the genealogy assertions we make, we need to use the most reliable, most accessible sources available. Which one would you trust? Auntie’s story or the government birth record for William LEWIS? I’ll take the document, thank you.
Now, how is the best way to record it….? I like the bibliography style, ala Reunion. I like a list of sources that I can attach to many people and events in my database. I then expand the source reference with notes and/or memos for the individual when I choose.
FYI, I am fluent in both Windows/PAF and Mac/Reunion.]]>
I’m also of the opinion that people are sources. And yes!–thank you Barbara Schenck for commenting about oral family history. –GJ]]>
I would definitely agree with Elizabeth Shown Mills on people being able to be sources.]]>
It is simply impossible to prove every bit of information you get about your family with a written source. Your mother’s written testimony that your great-grandmother’s eyes were blue is not more valid than her oral testimony to that fact. *She* is the source of the information — not the paper she wrote it down on. It is because a person *must* be a source that the reliability standards and source weighting is an important part of our research.
You’re trying to make the data fit your description instead of coming up with a description that fits the width of the available data.]]>
In general usage, people are frequently described as reliable or unreliable sources of information. And if you split hairs and make your definition exclude a regularly used definition of the word, I think you find peoples’ eyes glaze over.
Besides, family stories come down to us often in the oral telling. They exist as stories to help us understand ourselves and our backgrounds. They may even have kernels of truth in them!
I understand and accept your cereal box notion of sources, but I wouldn’t be that limited in my description. I believe that people can be sources of information. My father was the source of many family stories that he never wrote down. My grandmother was the source of lots of stories she told to me and my children. I have written some down. I have taped some. I have passed others on as oral testimony. The stories that are written down exist outside my having to deliver them — but they do exist, once told. in the memories of my children and grandchildren. They are also, granted, prone to mistelling and misinterpretation and mistakes. But they still exist and they traveled from one person to another through the spoken word.
Like Michael, I think the informant or the storyteller is a source (even though the information passed on may be ‘derived’ from earlier tellings).]]>
What about a face-to-face interview, that is not recorded or transcribed at all? That is to say, I interview my grandparents and then input the information directly into my genealogy software. Using your definition, the database file would be the original source, but I would have to argue that the interview with the informant would be the source. Make no mistake, I did not mean to imply that this lack of note-taking constituted responsible genealogy, but so very few of our sources are actually created by responsible genealogists.]]>